Matchday

Top free agents for 2024 MLS season: Lodeiro, Robinson, Vela & more

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An early look at the 2024 MLS free agency class is out, as provided by the MLS Players Association. The requirements are straightforward – at least 24 years old and five years of service in MLS – making dozens of players potentially hit the open market. 

Included in the MLSPA release are those who are out of contract and those who have an option year remaining on their contract. We're focusing on the first group, as there's some finality to their current deal rather than (usually) a club-led decision to retain them or not.

We should note: Contract extensions could always throw a wrinkle into who actually is available this winter. And further, the list linked above is not comprehensive of who will be out of contract.

Acosta, now in his second LAFC season, could feasibly head to Europe this winter – an option that's been flirted with over the years. But there's also every reason to believe Acosta stays in MLS, now approaching a dozen years in the league after starting as an FC Dallas homegrown.

He'll be a highly sought-after player (if he leaves LAFC), carrying 18 goals and 25 assists in 243 regular-season games. Also a US international, Acosta is hoping to feature at another World Cup after participating in Qatar 2022.

The Revs have a key decision to make this winter, one that would open a Designated Player spot if Bou departs. It's also not hard to envision a world where the Argentine forward returns back home, turning those Racing Club rumors into reality.

Whatever awaits, Bou has been an under-the-radar success for New England since joining midway through 2019 as the first marquee signing of the Bruce Arena era. The sharpshooter, limited by injuries as of late, has 42 goals and 19 assists in 95 matches for the Revs.

Would another club use a DP spot on Bou? TBD.

A shocking finding upon looking it up: Frei has never won an MLS Allstate Goalkeeper of the Year award or earned Best XI honors. I highlight that because the 37-year-old has been so reliable during a professional career that began in 2008, leading to 102 clean sheets in 368 appearances and sitting fourth all-time in MLS history in saves (1,178).

All that's to say Frei is in the top tier of MLS goalies, and the Sounders have a key decision to make. The 37-year-old, who's made Seattle a second home, seems to have a couple more years in the tank.

Gressel only just joined Columbus, arriving in a late-July trade from the Vancouver Whitecaps. One would think that move, born out of the US international's desire to be closer to the East Coast, wouldn't just be a short-term rental.

If Gressel does leave Columbus, though, he'd potentially join a fifth MLS team. The German-born defender/midfielder would be in demand, cementing his place as arguably the best crosser in the league – and tallying 24 goals and 65 assists in 202 matches along the way.

Kamara has 144 regular-season goals, one back from tying Landon Donovan for the second-most in MLS history. He's also spoken about wanting to catch Chris Wondolowski, whose 171 goals stand as the current record.

As that record chase unfolds, Kamara could join an 11th team this offseason – all after being traded from Montréal to Chicago before MLS is Back weekend. He'll turn 40 next year, but clearly hasn't lost the physical capacity or goalscorer's touch to keep playing.

Seattle general manager & chief soccer officer Craig Waibel likely has a busy winter transfer window ahead, as the club emerges from contracts and potentially freshens the roster. Will that include the DP spot that Lodeiro occupies?

The Uruguayan midfielder and longtime Seattle captain has been neigh irreplaceable since his 2016 midsummer arrival from Boca Juniors, leading to 41 goals and 78 assists in 181 matches. He's a club and MLS legend, raising the stakes around the decision facing all parties before his age-35 season.

Also: It's really hard to see Lodeiro wearing anything but Rave Green in this league.

Mensah joined San Jose in an offseason trade and has quickly established a strong center-back partnership with Rodrigues. If the right contract number can be reached, one would imagine San Jose looks into retaining the Ghanaian World Cup veteran.

Mensah, who turned 33 last month, was a Best XI selection in 2020 while at Columbus. He's one of the most experienced defenders in MLS and is the type of veteran you can build around.

There's arguably no MLS midfielder who's better in possession than Nagbe, who's also good for a golazo or two every season. Now in his 13th (!) season in the league, the 33-year-old would improve just about midfield group in the league if he was dropped into their lineup.

The only possible hold-up in free agency? Nagbe is currently a DP for the Crew, who could also look into retaining him this winter and maintaining the Nagbe-Aidan Morris partnership.

Nagbe, a three-time MLS Cup champion at three different clubs (Atlanta, Columbus and Portland), has a stunning 37 goals and 46 assists in 375 regular-season appearances.

For my money, Palacios is a top-three left back in MLS. He's developed fantastically at LAFC since joining in 2019, slowly approaching 100 regular-season games played while becoming a locked-in starter.

The uncertainty is whether "Chiqui" wants to stay in MLS long-term or head overseas, much like Ecuador international teammate José Cifuentes just did when being transferred from LAFC to Scottish powerhouse Rangers. If he does leave, LAFC's scouting department has shown an ability to act quickly and find high-level replacements.

Atlanta remain in contract talks with Robinson, who could depart for Europe on a free transfer this winter. And recent reports link him to PSV Eindhoven, who have ex-Philadelphia Union sporting director Earnie Stewart calling the shots and acquired former FC Dallas striker Ricardo Pepi this summer.

The USMNT center back is surely thinking about what sets him up to feature prominently at the 2026 World Cup, especially after missing out on Qatar 2022 due to a ruptured Achilles tendon. If Robinson stays in MLS, he could seek a DP-level contract after seeing Walker Zimmerman receive that at Nashville SC.

If Colorado can't retain him, the market for Rubio would likely be robust. The Chilean international striker has twice hit double-digit goals for the Rapids, tallying 11 in 2019 and 16 in 2022.

Rubio's positional versatility is also a plus, able to operate as a striker, out wide, or in a more withdrawn role since joining the league in 2016 (then with Sporting KC). The downside? Rubio's been hurt for the majority of the 2023 campaign, an underdiscussed factor in Colorado's struggles.

The much-discussed idea of Philadelphia transferring Wagner back to Europe hasn't materialized, despite the German left back becoming a two-time MLS All-Star. Last season, while earning Best XI honors, he also became the first defender in MLS history to record 15 assists in a single season.

Wagner, should he hit the free-agency market, would be one of the most in-demand players available. The Union won't want to lose him for free, so don't be surprised if a contract renewal arrives.

Vela has already stated that retirement is on his mind, recognizing he's in the autumn of his esteemed career. LAFC's captain and first-ever signing still has plenty in the tank, though, coming up clutch for the club he's helped grow since their 2018 expansion year.

The discussion likely centers around Vela's DP roster tag and what LAFC envision with those precious spots. Could a deal be reached where Vela returns on a non-DP deal, helping fuel one more title push for the Black & Gold?

Honorable Mentions

There’s a handful of other notable forwards who are going to be out of contract this winter as well:

  • Corey Baird (Houston Dynamo FC)
  • Danny Musovski (Real Salt Lake)
  • Romell Quioto (CF Montréal)
  • Ethan Finlay (Austin FC)
  • Fafa Picault (Nashville SC)

From the attacking midfield group, both Omir Fernandez (New York Red Bulls) and Sebastián Blanco (Portland Timbers) jump off the page as well.

A few more are LAFC goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau, FC Cincinnati midfielder Junior Moreno and St. Louis CITY SC left back John Nelson.